Teens love to label themselves “night owls,” trading stories of all-nighters and sleeping away an entire Saturday. Though teenagers and their sleep habits may be maddening to parents, they’re partly in response to physical changes that occur during puberty. “Teens experience a natural shift in circadian rhythm,” says Johns Hopkins sleep expert Laura Sterni, M.D. This makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Add in early school start times and an increase in homework, extracurricular activities and sometimes a part-time job, and sleep deprivation in teens becomes common. However, says Sterni, it’s important that parents help teens do the best they can, because this age group needs more sleep than we might realize.
Why Teens Need More Sleep Than Younger Kids
So how much sleep is enough? According to Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H. , teens need 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night—that’s an hour or so more than they needed at age 10. Why? “Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation,” explains Crocetti. Additional sleep supports their developing brain, as well as physical growth spurts. It also helps protect them from serious consequences like depression or drug use (see “The Price of Sleep Deprivation in Teens,” below).